Unveiling the Many Wonders of Toraja Highland: More than unique Burial sites

17 May 2016

Beyond any doubt, what makes Toraja special is the fascinating burial sites and the unique elaborate funeral ceremonies. It is no secret that the people of Toraja, epecially  their nobility, bury their deceased loved ones and relatives in one of the probably most unique ways in the world. Here, one will discover that unlike most cultures,  the dead are not buried deep in the ground but are instead placed high inside rocky cliffs, in caves or even inside carved holes in huge boulders. These burial sites are also decorated with grave doors enhanced by beautiful traditional carvings, their traditional wooden coffins called ‘erong’s and life-sized wooden puppets called ‘Tau-tau’ which are the effigies of the deceased.  

The tradition to place the dead on rocks follows the ancient teaching of the Torajan people, living in the highlands of South Sulawesi, who simply call this “Alok” or belief. While some may refer to it as “Alok ta’ dolo” or the “belief of the ancient people”, the fact that this s still practiced today in modern times proves that ancient traditions are still pretty much kept alive. This tradition of the “Alok” community believes that the sky represents their father while the earth is their mother. Thus, as symbol of preserving the earth’s purity as “the mother”,  the people of Toraja do not bury their dead in the ground.

These burial sites can be found in many places in Toraja. Aside from the already more wellknown sites such as Londa, Lemo, and the traditional village of Kete’Kesu, there are still a lot of other sites throughout the highlands including at Lo’ko Ma’ta,- considered as the largest stone boulder burial site, - the cave of Tampang Allo, and also at the Kalimbuang Bori’ Village. While the cliff and stone boulder burial sites may sound familiar, Kalimbuang Bori features another aspect of Toraja’s funeral culture which is the menhir monoliths. Kalimbuang Bori is considered the largest menhirs’ stone field in the highland. These menhir monoliths are erected as monuments of a funeral conducted by the nobility which indicates the wealth of the deceased. The height of the menhir stones indicates how many water buffaloes were slaughtered for the funeral ceremony, where the minimum number is 24 water buffaloes.   


Beyond Burial Sites and Funeral CeremonFies

However, the splendor of Toraja is not only found around burial sites and funeral ceremonies. These highlands also offer spectacular natural panorama as well as inspiring serene ambience. Amidst the high mountains and rocky cliffs, green rice paddies stretch beautifully across the land. Up on the hill of Batutumonga, one can look down on these amazing picturesque scenes while breathing in the refreshing cool highland air. Adding to the extraordinary scene, the morning mist would rise up as it welcomes the rising sun on the horizon.

For those who wish to experience the sheer sensation of walking down rice paddies, there are a number of trekking routes available. One of these is located just below the Loko’ Mata burial sites and will take trekkers on a magnificent journey over the vast rice fields. Sure, you’ll eventually get wet mud on your shoes, however, you will also come across a number of farmers irrigating their plot of land or planting the rice on the many terraces of the fields. Away from the noise, polluted air, and concrete structures of the city, this is truly the perfect getaway.

In the village of Sa’dan Barana, you can discover one of Toraja’s most fascinating traditional arts in the form of hand-woven “tenun” fabric. Featuring distinct Toraja’s traditional motifs, these fabrics are still produced with traditional techniques that have been passed down the generations which  include  natural dyes from various plants. In the village, not only can you buy these precious artworks, you can also observe how they are created from spinning the threads to weaving them in large looms.   

The Highland of Toraja is also renowned as the producer of some of the best coffee in the world. Not only can you taste and bring home this amazing coffee you can also visit the plantation and explore how these  seeds are produced and processed. At the Sulotco Coffee Plantation which is situated 1,500 to 1,700 meters above sea level on the slope of Mount Rante Karua, one can see how the coffee is grown and processed. Sulotco grows high quality coffee especially the well-known Kalosi Toraja Coffee and Celebes Kalosi Coffee which are recognized as some of the best coffee varieties in the world. Moreover, you can also visit the “Kopi Luwak” or Civet Coffee area where you can observe the civets and how what is known as the most expensive coffee in the world, is produced.

More Information on Toraja Highland is. available at: www.visittoraja.com


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